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Firm aiding IEBC technology refuses to open servers

By Hilary Kimuyu September 1st, 2022 3 min read

Smartmatic International which has been in the business of building and implementing electronic voting systems has denied Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga access to servers saying scrutiny infringes their intellectual property rights.

On Wednesday, the electoral agency had agreed to grant Mr Odinga access to its servers after his lawyer James Orengo alleged that it had blocked the presidential candidate from doing so despite a court order.

In a letter addressed to Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the company through its Managing Director F. Gunnick said that the request by IEBC CEO Mr Marjan Hussein Marjan could not be honoured as what the commission wanted was IP protected.

According to the letter, IEBC wanted the provision of an image of NTC Server(s), but the company clarified that such images contain software owned and copyrighted by Smartmatic and is thus IP protected.

“Providing full access would infringe our intellectual property rights,” the letter read in part.

Also read: Supreme Court satisfied with IEBC compliance to server access

“Providing third parties access to our source code, and security features including transmission certificates and encrypted keys would render the system insecure – as it is today – for any future use in Kenya or anywhere else in the world. In addition to violating our IP rights, this would also jeopardize elections in other countries that are using or have used our systems.”

The company wants IEBC to provide them with all collected data related to the Results and Transmission System and all Results Transmission System logs as the information would be sufficient to extensively audit the Results Transmission System and verify that it worked properly.

According to Smartmatic, all physical tally reports were available online in real-time since election night.

“All political parties and certified NGO election observers had access to those tallies and were able to audit the results independently. Even citizens all over the world had full access to these tally reports and were able to add the results,” it said.

They further said that IEBC could provide supervised and managed access to the Results Transmission System from Anniversary Towers. “This additional evidence will demonstrate the accuracy of the results.”

This comes after IEBC, through its official social media handle, confirmed on Wednesday evening that it had granted Mr Odinga access.

The petitioners that were to be given access to the servers include Mr Odinga’s running mate Martha Karua, Youth Advocacy for Africa (YAA), Mr Peter Kirika, Mr Khelef Khalifa, Mr George Osewe, Ms Ruth Mumbi and Ms Grace Kamau.

The court orders stemmed from their allegations that IEBC’s election technology was deliberately compromised by non-commission staff.

“The information sought is critical to demonstrate that IEBC did not conduct a free, fair, secure, verifiable, accountable and transparent presidential election,” they had told the court.

In court today, Mr Orengo, who is also the Siaya Governor, and Philip Murgor argued that there was evidence of remote access to the IEBC system three days after the voting process ended.

“There was illegal and malicious access of the IEBC system by certain individuals, one of whom was Mr Chebukati’s assistant,” Mr Murgor said.

“The technology deployed by IEBC completely failed the standards of security and transparency. It was manipulated and tainted to the point that the results declared by Mr Chebukati cannot be said to be a demonstration of the true will of the people,” he added.

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“There was evidence of remote access to the IEBC system three days after the voting process ended. Transmission of numerous forms from a single server contrary to the expectation that the forms would come from several Kiems kits.”

Smartmatic is listed in London, United Kingdom as its headquarters, and dates back to 2000, when it established its first base in Florida, USA.

“Smartmatic focused on building the most secure, accessible and easy-to-use election technologies designed to safeguard the process from start to finish,” the company says on its website.

“Today, Smartmatic is the world’s largest, most advanced and innovative elections technology company,” the firm adds.

The company has since spread its presence to other parts of the world, including Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. It also has a strong presence in Venezuela, where some of its co-founders hail from.

The company says some of its specialities in election management include monitoring contracted field support technicians, monitoring SIM cards for polling location technicians and planning, allocation and detailed proof of installation of election technology.

Smartmatic has been contracted by several countries to run their election technology.

These include Venezuela, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Albania, Zambia, Uganda, the Philippines and the United States.

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